I thought I’d do a little testing to see how the kinetic weapons stacked up against their beam/laser equivalents.
First up, the Autocannon versus the Cruiser Defence Laser. Both appear to be intended as anti-fighter weapons, with 3.7 tracking. On paper, the Autocannon appears to be better in every way, with what looked like a higher dps, better penetration, more hp, less weight. The payoff appeared to be a marginally higher cost in points, crew and power requirements.
I tried them out a few times versus speed 2.35 tribe fighters. Four cruisers with 5 weapons, 2 tractor beams, versus 4 squadrons. The autocannon performed comparitively poorly, losing 2 cruisers to kill off the opposing fighters, where the defence laser armed cruisers only losing one.
I repeated this test versus speed 2.68 rebel fighters. The autocannon cruisers lost one, the defence laser cruisers lost none. Looks like I need to do some fighter comparisons later, those tribe fighters might take the crown with their doubled HP, even if they are a bit slow. EDIT: Did the testing… Rebel speed (2.68 vs 2.35) trumps Tribe doubled HP in a straight laser dogfight, regardless of whether carriers are available.
I then tested the raw dps of the two weapons, by facing them off against each other - tribe cruisers with 7 weapons and 4 tribe repair modules, no sheilds or armour, facing each other, one with lasers one with autocannons. Six one-on-one combats resulted in a convincing six nil victory for the cruiser defence laser. The described fire rate for the autocannon is clearly misleading, it’s probably the peak fire rate, not taking into account the short cooldown between salvos.
Conclusion: The fire rate of the autocannon is highly misleading, with the cruiser defence laser actually dealing more damage per second. The cruiser defence laser remains the best anti-fighter weapon that can be mounted on a cruiser. However, the better penetration (notably, the ability to defeat frigate shields and the minimal armour many people put on their cruisers) may make it a sound choice versus mixed frigate/fighter fleets.
Next: The Howitzer versus the Cruiser Laser. Both are apparently intended in a similar role - short ranged shield breaker. The howitzer is dramatically cheaper in cost, weight and power. It’s shield pen is 10 lower, but both are over 27, so they might as well be the same… The howitzer gets 1 more armour pen, 16 to 15. It has more accuracy 1.1 to 0.9 which is nice, but a bit shorter range and a bit higher minimum range. The howitzer has double the predicted DPS from the fire rate / damage statistics, but we already know from the last test that this is incorrect… So I faced them off against each other to see… The results were pretty disappointing. The Howitzer was thrashed by the cruiser laser.
I modified the cruiser laser ships to be the same overall points value (this required reducing them from 7, to 5, weapons modules) and tried again… This time the combat seemed a bit closer, but still an easy victory for the cruiser laser. When I made it 4 weapons to 7… Still a victory for the cruiser laser. 3 weapons to 7, finally the howitzer flipped the tables.
Conclusion: The fire rate of the Howitzer is very misleading. Rather than dealing more than double the damage per second of the cruiser laser, it was in fact dealing about half.
Overall conclusion: The kinetic weapons are currently dramatically inferior to their counterparts. Note that this doesn’t mean the Tribe is weak (so far I think it’s strong), it just means they’re going to perform better if you use the old weapons.
EDIT: one note about this… It’s a little unfair comparing a weapon to the cruiser laser, then declaring it to be an ineffective weapon - the cruiser laser is arguably the best weapon in the game right now. The Howitzer is, however, in the same role, so the two shouldn’t be too far off each other’s performance (I’d expect the howitzer to deal a little less damage, given it’s lower requirements and better tracking… but not the half that it is now… And it’d be really nice if the fire rate of salvo weapons was more accurately described. Perhaps the number given as fire rate should be the time between the start time of each salvo, and the damage number should have a multiplier marked to indicate it’s multiple shots. This would make it possible to compare the performance of salvo and regular fire weapons.)